I am so honored to introduce Jay Ruderman, president of the Ruderman Family Foundation, as a guest blogger for dance4empowerment. His dedication to raising awareness, providing opportunities, creating change for people with disabilities in Boston, Israel, and throughout the world is truly inspiring. I am very fortunate for his support in my endeavors to create and expand dance4empowerment.
Dance, move, and empower,
I am President of a foundation that believes in the full inclusion of people with disabilities in the Jewish community and society at large. Some would say it’s a lofty idea but too hard to implement. It’s too difficult to change people’s perceptions, tough to erase pre-existing prejudices, too costly or we’re just not ready. I hear this all the time and my answer is: it takes two to tango.
Before learning to dance, you size up your partner: they may not be the same height or same weight, they look clumsy, they’re nervous. In short, they look different from you and you’re very unsure how this will work out.
But then the music starts. You begin to move in tandem, you work together, you start to move flawlessly across the dance floor. Suddenly, what seemed like a potential weakness becomes a strength: you play off of each other. It takes time, it takes patience and you’ll have to work through many potential failures and missteps. But at the end of the journey, you’ve learned to tango!
Inclusion is not as difficult as it seems. Yes, some people with disabilities may look or act different. Yes, it takes time and patience to work with them, get to know them and learn how to include them. But EVERYONE has potential, everyone can contribute, everyone can improve our community.
The Jewish community is an amazing community, one that is dedicated to social justice, tikkun olam (healing the world) and has been at the forefront of every social movement of the last half century. We have the ability to exact lasting change within society at large. The time has come to do the same within our own community for the 20% of our people who have a disability.
It takes two to tango. Take the first step. The end results will be extremely satisfying.
Jay Ruderman is the President of the Ruderman Family Foundation.